How a 6-foot-Eight mayor of Metal Metropolis changed into the unlikely rock star of legalization in 2020
If you recently visited the state capital of Pennsylvania, you may have been surprised to find a large cannabis leaf flag flying high above the main entrance to the building.
It’s an especially unsettling sight considering that in 2019, Pennsylvania police made 21,789 arrests for cannabis possession and showed no sign of stopping – because Republicans, in control of state lawmakers, continue to block any attempt to enter to enter the world of legal weeds.
That explains why Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania John Fetterman made it his business to fly his freak flag, especially from the balcony of his office on the second floor of the main building. He made his views clear in this portrait with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf:
From the same balcony, Fetterman proudly displays an LGBTQ rights flag to protest continued opposition from those same Republican lawmakers to a law banning workplace discrimination based on sexual or gender identity.
The flags have had some backlash, but the governor remains undeterred.
It’s a little flattering that they changed Pennsylvania law just for me. 🥺👉👈
Speaking of changes in the law …
I’ll take them off when we get:
LEGAL WEED 🟩 FOR PA + EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER LAW for LGBTQIA + Community in PA.
– John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) November 20, 2020
“America’s Coolest Mayor” goes nationwide
John Fetterman, who was brought into the national limelight during the recent Trump-led Pennsylvania election drama, has long been known to cannabis advocates as an outspoken and staunch advocate of legalization – well into his time as a small town mayor.
He was elected with a single vote in 2005 by the citizens of Braddock, PA. Soon he made national headlines and was widely lauded as “America’s Coolest Mayor”.
Since taking office, Fetterman has tirelessly pushed for legalization in Pennsylvania. A marijuana flag is currently flying outside his Capitol building.
Fetterman is a sturdy, 51-year-old son of the rust belt. He wears more hair on his chin than on his head and prefers steel-gray work shirts over the politician’s standard suit and tie. Focused on developing youth programs, attracting artists and creatives, renovating old buildings in an environmentally friendly way, and investing in community programs and outreach, Fetterman made Braddock a vibrant city on the rise.
After winning re-election several times by a wide margin, he ran for nationwide office in 2018 and caused a stir when he defeated the Democratic incumbent in the primary and then rode the re-election of Governor Tom Wolfe into office. (In Pennsylvania, candidates for lieutenant governor are listed separately in the primary, then the winner in the general election is assigned to the party’s gubernatorial candidate.)
Since taking office, Fetterman has tirelessly pushed for legalization in his home state, speaking directly to voters, prevailing over dozen social media posts and – yesterday – writing his own Washington Post calling for an end to the ban.
For decades we have criminalized a plant + people who consumed it.
What a bizarre, destructive superstition.
Legal weed for USA. 🇺🇸 https://t.co/Xc9Wh1kgQL
– John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) December 8, 2020
Questions and answers with Fetterman
Leafly spoke to Fetterman about Zoom just hours after Pennsylvania confirmed the 2020 general election results.
Leafly: How did legalization become so important to you personally?
It is easy. I was a small town mayor of a color community. I originally started working with the young people there [as a community organizer]and many of them had stupid marijuana charges. Just nickel-and-dime stuff that would keep her from getting on in her life.
In the meantime, the ban is just useless. Total waste. It is absurd that this should ever have been a problem, quite frankly. Logically, if you legalize against weeds, you should also be against legalization of cigarettes and alcohol. Because these two substances kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and you can go to any grocery store and buy them en masse.
You can also gamble away your savings in a government sponsored casino.
But in Pennsylvania, you get caught with a little weed and you are a fucking criminal for the rest of your life.
Leafly: In 2020, the Democrats were at the top of the list Joe Biden, whose position on legalization …
Was a coward. It was cowardly. You have to call it what it is.
Here is an undeniable fact. When it comes to weeds, the Democratic Party’s platform has been to the right of South Dakota voters [who approved legalization]. Which is absurd. Because if you’re in anything to the right of South Dakota, you need to sit down and reevaluate your life.
It was cowardly before the election, and now it’s downright embarrassing. And I hope you will quote me on that.
Roll-Up # 89: Joe Biden Takes the Coward’s Way
In Arizona, you can grow a dozen weed plants in your home.
In Massachusetts, you’ll soon be getting weed grubhub style.
In Pennsylvania, the former is a serious crime in prison; the latter is a drug trafficking.
What is the matter with us?
Legal Weed 🟩 for PA. https://t.co/m4w2DaKtJf
– John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) December 2, 2020
Leafly: So you think Democrats left votes on the table by not accepting legalization?
I make you better Democrats risked losing the election.
During the campaign, I predicted that this candidate would win the presidency if one of the candidates announced his support for legal weed. .
We won by a few hundred thousand votes, perhaps spread over six states. If Trump had backed legalization, it would have sparked a tsunami of support and excitement and new voters. For Democrats, it would have been game over.
And in the meantime, do you know who won the most on election day? Legal weed!
Legal weed killed it on the ballot in 2020.
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Leafly: You recently took a listening tour of all the counties in Pennsylvania and spoke to a lot of people about cannabis. What did you learn?
Veterans jumped out more than anyone. We’ve had so many veterans, often in tears, who just said, “These fuckers call me a criminal because I use a plant that makes me feel normal. The VA will give me as many pills as I want but I am a criminal for using weed. “
It’s a shame.
Leafly: New Jersey voters only approved legalization by a wide margin, and the state is moving towards opening cannabis stores. Does sharing a border with a rule of law help increase your efforts?
Here in Pennsylvania, legalization is inevitable. It has to happen.
Forty percent of our residents will be a grocery store away from a candyland of legal weed [in New Jersey]. And then Virginia will legalize. And New York, probably.
How far do we want to fall back before we stop the injustice of cannabis arrests and the economic loss of people trying to buy weeds in a neighboring state where it is legal?
Leafly: What’s the latest status on your weed flag? And how did it all start?
I have a balcony that looks like some sort of prime Pennsylvania State Capitol property. I started flying a Pride flag because in my state there are Republicans in the legislature blocking protection for this community. I’m also fighting a weed flag because Republicans are blocking legalization.
Doing the right thing is important to me, and if you think we should criminalize a plant and punish people for the rest of their lives who are caught doing it, I am right to look forward to doing you for the other person be right.
Did the legislature recently “Flag changeAre you specifically referring to you?
Yes, it was clearly aimed at me. [A Republican-sponsored amendment in a current state budget-related bill would ban the flying of any flag other than the U.S., Pennsylvania, or POW/MIA flag on the Capitol building’s exterior.]
And it’s just like LOL. What are you going to do? Are you calling the Gay Flag Police to get it? And in the meantime, they only add to the problem.
Your idea is that you can silence and end the conversation.
If the change is successful, will you continue to fly these flags?
Oh yeah. I just bought new ones. 100% they go up.
It’s free speech. You will not tell me what to say or do from my office.
I was always in favor of legalization because I always knew it was the right thing to do. Even if it was unpopular. Even if it was considered too far out by many people. Even if I am not a consumer of it myself.
Leafly: In 2020, voters in Oregon and Washington DC voted for decriminalization initiatives Psilocybin mushrooms? Do you support that?
Yes, and that has to happen here. Nobody produces more mushrooms than Pennsylvania. We are the [culinary] Mushroom capital of the world.
Our state could embrace hemp, weeds, and mushrooms in ways that would make us leaders, instead be scared and get stuck in reefer madness.
Oregon voters also approved an initiative to decriminalize all drugs. Do you support that too?
And I would just ask anyone, “How has the criminalization of addiction worked for us?”
Are you ready to give this up? I am.
Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of How to Smoke Pot (Right): A High-profile Guide to Getting High “(2016 – Penguin / Random House) and co-host and co-creator of the podcast” Great Moments in “Weed Story With Abdullah and Bean. “Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.
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